Jewish Iran deal supporters booted from New York town hall meeting

When a group of New York activists stood silently in support of the Iran deal at a meeting in Brooklyn, they were accused of being ‘Arabs’ and wishing to send Jews off to the ‘gas chambers.’

By +972 Magazine Staff

Four Jewish activists were booed and shown the door when they expressed their support for the Iran deal at a town hall style meeting with Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries in Brooklyn Tuesday night.

Sitting in the back section of the Flatbush Jewish Center, the group stood up during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting and silently hoisted signs, reading, “Another Jew who says no war with Iran.”

The mostly conservative audience responded with accusations such as, “You’re going to send all of us to the gas chambers!” Another called them “Arabs” and asked them where they were keeping their PLO flags.

“There’s something a little bit sad that in a room full of Jews like that, I would feel so unsafe,” said Simone Zimmerman, one of the activists, who belongs to the anti-occupation group If Not Now. She arrived to the town hall meeting after hearing that the liberal pro-deal organizations J-Street and MoveOn were encouraging their members to take advantage of opportunities to discuss the deal with congressional representatives.

One audience member approached the group and tore up one of the posters, causing others in the audience to clap. Security then requested that the group leave, and when a reporter and the congressman’s staff approached the group, the synagogue’s president asked that they not give any interviews.

“I’m scared of what might happen if Iran obtains a nuclear weapon–just like the folks who tore our posters and shouted ‘shame!’ at us,” said, Andrew Gordon-Kirsch, one of the activists. “But I can’t let my fears alone move us to war. I believe we’re safer when working diplomatically, certainly more so than working militarily.”

The event, attended by hundreds in the community, was hosted by AIPAC, Agudath Israel of America, the Orthodox Union, and a number of other conservative-leaning Jewish organizations.

It was publicized as a “special briefing” which would welcome questions or comments from the congressman’s constituency. But the activists said that the tone of the speakers was “condescending,” meant to obfuscate rather than clarify the aspects of the deal, and to leave the audience feeling helpless rather than enlightened.

Activists held up signs in support of Iran deal at a Brooklyn town hall meeting with Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. August 11, 2015. (Twitter)
Activists held up signs in support of Iran deal at a Brooklyn town hall meeting with Democratic Congressman Hakeem Jeffries. August 11, 2015. (Twitter)

Speakers included Jim Walsh, an expert in international security at MIT’s Security Studies program, and Omri Ceren, a senior advisor with the Israel project, who spoke about the ways in which the deal is unworkable in theory or in practice.

The activists recalled that while Jeffries seemed to be leaning to vote against the deal, he also mentioned a number of times that he was wavering in his decision, to which “tons of people in the audience interrupted him and shouted out at him–very hawkish people yelling out that they wanted to hear him be more hardline.”

Jeffries attended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s controversial address to a joint session of Congress in March, while his colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus boycotted the speech. He has not announced how he will decide on the Iran deal when it will be put up for a vote in September.

Only four members of the Democratic New York congressional delegation have said they will vote against the Iran deal.

Newsletter banner